Geneva Anderson digs into art

Sandra Ericson, creator, Center for Pattern Design, talks about Balenciaga, the de Young exhibition and her “Balenciaga in Depth” seminar this weekend at CCA

Balenciaga's puffy and voluminous evening gown in turquoise silk gauze, summer 1958, epitomizes his ability to sculpt audaciously with fabric. While very modern in its feel, the dress echoes the abstracted influence of a gown depicted in a Goya portrait. Fabric swatch is attached in lower right. Archival House photograph.

In the course of researching the de Young Museum’s amazing Balenciaga and Spain exhibition, I had questions about the precise techniques that made Cristóbal Balenciaga the consummate designer and master sculptor in textiles that he was.   I turned to Sandra Ericson for answers.  Sandra taught fashion design, pattern design, and textile courses at City College of San Francisco (CCSF) for 31 years.  In 2006, after retiring, she established the Center for Pattern Design  (CFPD) in her hometown of St. Helena, CA, as a way to focus on the people in the fashion industry who actually cut the cloth.  At CFPD, Ericson teaches advanced courses in cutting, draping, pattern design and construction and also takes these courses on the road.  She is the turn-to resource for a lot of fashion insiders and museum curators and is a respected authority on French designer Madeleine Vionnet who pioneered draping on the bias, the bias cut and ruled haute couture in the 1930’s, designing sensual gowns for Marlene Dietrich, Katherine Hepburn, and Greta Garbo that did marvelous things for their bodies.  What a pleasure to have Sandra explain Balenciaga with an insider’s detail to attention. 

Geneva Anderson:  Does “pattern designer” accurately capture what you do and what your center emphasizes?  

Sandra Ericson: I am a pattern designer and after 31 years of teaching at City College, I established the Center for Pattern Design  in 2006 as a way to bring the focus back to those persons who actually cut the cloth, an important part of the fashion industry.   Before the recession, which brought back a return to value, the fashion industry and the discipline of fashion got very theatrical and celebrity-driven

Francisco de Goya, The Marquessa de Pontejos, c. 1786, Andrew W. Mellon collection. Image: National Gallery of Art.

and concentrated on the designer as the single figure in the fashion company.  Often, the designer did not cut his own work and it really became a situation where the credit did not go to the craft people who did it.  Primary among those craft people are the people who actually understand fabric, the body and who can interpret design and cut a two-dimensional pattern that looks amazing in three dimensions.  I wanted to focus on people who could do that and this requires a special skill set. 

This requires spatial visualization so that you can imagine what something lying flat on the table in an odd shape will look like in three dimensions.  You have to have a good grasp of all the textile characteristics so you know what will happen when you hang the fabric and gravity and body motion come into play. You also need a good sense of anatomy and how the body moves and what makes clothes functional, not just decorative.  When you look around the world for people who can do really that well, there are few.  Balenciaga is one of the most important from the past who we can look to.  When something like the Balenciaga and Spain exhibition comes along, I get excited because I want people to understand what made his clothes terrific–it was his ability to cut and his meticulous attention to detail and construction and, finally, his eye—discerning  how the overall effect is going to been seen and thought about and how it accentuates the wearer.

Geneva Anderson:  Balenciaga is known for the balloon skirt, the baby doll, the sack dress, the 7/8 length bracelet sleeve, his masterful manipulation of the waist, and he’s been called the “king of dissymmetry.”   Explain these.

Balenciaga's dramatic wedding dress of white silk-satin and silk gazar, summer, 1968, shown on the eve of the Paris student riots, is austere in its simplicity. It is meticulously crafted with very few carefully placed seams that run along the bias. The headpiece repeats the lines of a nun's stiff veil and reflects the ever present influence of the church on Balenciaga. Image: courtesy Balenciaga Archive.

Sandra Ericson: All of those are related to a singular skill—the ability to sculpt.  His medium was textiles and he was particularly famous for using textiles that were sculptural in nature, especially silk gazar, a heavy silk with a very springy quality.  He also worked with silk “zagar” but it’s very rare and you can’t find it these days.  When I do the Balenciaga draping class, I will look for something comparable to the gazar for us to work with.   Because we will be draping on the half-scale dress form, which is 36 inches high and all the measurement are exactly half of a size ten person, I will be able to go out and find something that will have the qualities that Balenciaga’s fabrics had.  A very heavy satin, duchess satin, (made from silk fibers) is an example—it’s stiffer, fuller, heavier, and has a lot more body than full silk has.  In his coats, he used fabrics that might have been double woven, fabrics that could retain their dimensions even though they were folded or manipulated or gathered.  

Balenciaga was a person who inspired a lot of designers who came after him in the architectural mode–André Courrèges, Ronaldus Shamask.  In the mid-1970’s I actually took a class in architectural design and one of the presenters,  interestingly, enough was a guy named Salvatore, who was Balenciaga’s right hand man and he gave our group several patterns that belonged to Balenciaga but were not out there in circulation.  I kept those and when I do my class, I will be bringing those in. 

I’ve also made several of the pieces myself that he made famous.  He was strong, very architectural but careful –he had a way of doing a coat so that he set the collar on the neckline back a little bit so that if you were a lady who was no longer standing up too straight, you looked as if you had perfect posture in the coat. 

The voluminous silhouette of Balenciaga's "chou" wrap, from winter 1968, is entirely dependent on the stiffness of silk gazar, while the evening dress is done in a more fluid black silk crepe. Photo: Balenciaga Archives, Paris.

I’ve made that coat several times and will be bringing one in.  He had a way of working with a woman’s body so that whatever was a perceived negative about her figure disappeared and you focused on the most wonderful parts.  In the 1950’s you have to remember that people with money were not necessarily young.  Ladies might have thick waists or necks, but the wrist is the last to go.  The 7/8 length (or bracelet) sleeve made the wrist look delicate and drew attention there.  He  also lowered the waist in the back so you had a beautiful curve in the back.

Geneva Anderson:  In terms of construction, these ideas are incorporated right as the fabric as being cut? 

Sandra Ericson:  His clothes were created either for the runway model or specific clients, so he knew what needed to be done on a body by body basis.  In terms of the general construction of the pieces, he was ever committed to cutting the cloth in the way that women would be exhibited in the best possible way, cutting off a line just before a beautiful physical curve on the body would take the eye into unflattering proportions. Kind of design by restraint!  Likewise, he would suggest or replace a shape rather than define it as it was on a particular person – again bearing in mind that his clothes were created either for the runway model or specific clients whose proportions he knew.

A lot of his high fashion clothes though were reproduced in one way or another for the mass market and became ready to wear.  I used to send my students down to the Sunset Market in the Sunset district in the City when I teaching over there because the Balenciaga coat would still be going up and down the aisles pushing the grocery cart. It was such  a popular style coat with a small stand-up folded over collar, straight in the back and the sleeves were usually cut in one and looked sort of molded and stopped short of your wrists.  Sometimes, it had fur on the collar.  

Several of Balenciaga's designs contain overt allusions to the matador’s costume—cape, bolero, the bolero’s edging of borlones (pom pom tassels), medias (stockings) and headgear. Legendary Spanish matador Luis Miguel Dominguín (1926-1996) was friendly with Picasso, had a romance with Eva Gardner and was written about by Ernest Hemingway. Here, he wears an ornate bolero with traditional embroidery and sports an anadido or plaited pigtail worn until retirement from the ring and then ceremoniously cut-off. Photo 1960.

Geneva Anderson:  Who was buying and wearing Balenciaga back in the day?

Sandra Ericson: Socialites. The celebrities in that period were mainly people who had social stature and there were film and theatrical people as well.  It was the Babe Paley era, debutants, wives of important men.  They went to Paris for their fittings.  In the Bay Area, they would have had fittings at I Magnin.  When the whole architectural trend waned, and things went to the tight denim of the 1970’s, his influence and that way of working faded and he closed his house in 1968 and he died way too young in 1972.  A lot of designers from that era and this is what happened to Madeleine Vionnet too–  they are exquisite, perfect, in what they do — but they are so finely attuned to a certain way of working that is very difficult to follow fashion.  A lot of them feel philosophically committed to the aesthetic they have been enthralled by and when that no longer is the fashion it is very difficult to change that philosophy and that’s what happened to Vionnet.  Balenciaga was also a very private person, so once he had done it and he saw the way the world was moving in the 1960’s, a lot of factors contributed to the closing of the house.



Balenciaga's cocktail hat in ivory silk satin, 1953, is a whimsical reference to the añadido or tiny braided pigtail that a matador wears until his retirement. Originally, the bullfighter's own hair was used but the pigtail later became a separate element, a castañeta, that is attached to a flat fabric-covered disc and is placed beneath the montera. Photo: John Rawlings, 1953

Geneva Anderson:  How strong were Basque and Spanish influences on him?

Balenciaga’s winter 1946 bolero in burgundy silk velvet and jet and passementerie embroidery by Bataille deonstrates his engagement with historical styles and with the influence of bullfighting. Collection of Hamish Bowles. Photo by Kenny Komer.

Sandra Ericson: He was from Spain and he, of course, was living in a Catholic country. In those days, before Vatican II which ushered in a new era for the Church, Catholicism was very old-fashioned, formal, and rigid.  The Church vestments were very sculptural, things were done in platinum, and there was an air of solemnity about everything.  There’s the sense of a very heavy structure laid over the religion and the dress code and that a strong influence on Balenciaga, living in a strongly Catholic society.  Fashion designers become translators of their era: they are masters of the zeitgeist who interpret everything that’s going on in an aesthetic way.  And because fashion is for human beings, it becomes almost a complete mirror of the society a designer is living in.

A lot of the pieces in Balenciaga and Spain are definitely ecclesiastical or nationalistic without reservation — a strong indicator of his identity with his culture certainly.  There are two other factors too–one, a presentation of the idea that women could be members of the clergy, or bullfighters, or run a country as royalty.  None of this was even remotely possible in general for women.  The second thing is that it shows he was not beyond co-opting a design concept and using it for his own — maybe evidence of his business pressures. Familiar ideas sell.

Balenciaga’s cocktail dress of rose peau de soie and black lace, winter 1948, suggests a modernized version of the lace dress worn by Dona Tadea Arias in Goya’s 1973-4 portrait at the Prado. It also reflects his conservatism in his expression of femininity which was not highly sexualized. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, gift of Mrs. C. H. Russell. Photo by Joe McDonald/FAMSF

Geneva Anderson:  What is the significance of the re-emergence of the House of Balenciaga under the ownership of Gucci and the design influence of Nicholas Ghesquière, who is supposed to be like Balenciaga because he is a self-taught designer.  He’s known for hip interpretations of Balenciaga classics, such as the semi-fitted jacket and the sack dress and is worn by celebrities like Madonna and Sinéad O’Connor.   How do you see transitions like this?

Sandra Ericson:  Anytime somebody buys a house that had a very strong leader, designer and a strong aesthetic, they are doing it primarily for business reasons.   It’s not as if anyone is going to resurrect Balenciaga or copy him and the person who is coming to fill those shoes is going to be who he is in his own time.  He or she can’t be anything else because everybody can only be who they are in their own time.  What the house is hoping is that the brand, the name, will carry enough social cache that it will allow them to be financially successful in a completely different time.  It’s kind of akin to hitchhiking on a name–if it works, that’s great but it’s very difficult for a new designer to come in and interpret another person’s work that is that personal.  So far, they’ve had three designers come to house of Vionnet and it hasn’t clicked.  If the person is good in his own interpretation of his own time, then they’ve got something to work with.  If the talent is short, then that won’t happen because staking it on Balenciaga’s name isn’t enough.

Geneva Anderson:  Tell me more about the “Balenciaga in Depth” event you’ve organized.

Sandra Ericson:  I’m doing a 3 day series of events and it all starts on Friday May 20 with a morning tour of the Balenciaga and Spain exhibition with someone who worked on the exhibition and this followed by an elegant box lunch.  In the evening, there will be a reception at CCA followed by a slide presentation explaining more of the history and chronology of Balenciaga. I will talk about the design issues, pattern, fabric, and construction pattern and an overview.  On Saturday and Sunday, at CCA, there will be a master class in draping where we will do two Balenciaga classics.  We each work on our own dress forms and there is room for 15 people

Balenciaga's cocktail dress of fuchsia silk shantung and black lace with black silk satin ribbons, summer 1966, illustrates his understanding of women as feminine, properly sexy, sugary--bows, ribbon, lace--and fabrics that are about femininity. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Eleanor Christensen de Guigne Collection (Mrs. Christian de Guigne III), gift of Ronna and Eric Hoffman. Photo by Joe McDonald/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

in the class.  Each person will work with a half-scale dress form, which is 36 inches high, and all the measurements are exactly half of a size ten person. I am certainly not planning on duplicating the talent of Balenciaga but I want people to understand how he worked, how to cut cloth the way in a similar way and how to work with similar cloth so that they can begin to embrace fashion design as a more sculptural activity, as a form of art.

We each work on our own dress forms and there is room for 15 people in the class.  Each person will have a half-scale dress form

Center for Pattern Design Details: for further information, contact Sandra Ericson, Director, Center for Pattern Design, St. Helena, California 94574, 707-967-0852

Balenciaga and Spain Details: The de Young Museum is located at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA.  Admission to Balenciaga and Spain is $25 adults and free for members and children 5 and under.  There is a $5 discount for purchasing tickets in advance.  For a complete listing of the numerous special events associated with the exhibition visit its webpage Balenciaga and Spain.

ARThound’s previous coverage of Balenciaga:

What is Balenciaga really all about? St. Helena pattern designer Sandra Ericson is offering a chance to cut, fit and sew two Balenciaga masterpieces this weekend at San Francisco’s CCA (May 17, 2011)

 Smart marketing: the de Young Museum’s foray into pay-per-view–hook ‘em by streaming a sold-out Balenciaga Symposium and later they will visit (March 23, 2011)

 Bouquets to Art 2011 launches Monday with a Spanish theme to celebrate Balenciaga–at San Francisco’s de Young Museum through March 19, 2011  (March 13, 2011)

May 21, 2011 Posted by | de Young Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is Balenciaga really all about? St. Helena pattern designer Sandra Ericson is offering a chance to cut, fit and sew two Balenciaga masterpieces this weekend at San Francisco’s CCA

Sandra Ericson, founder and director, Center for Pattern Design, St. Helena, will teach a seminar this weekend at CCA where participants will each make a half-scale replica of Balenciaga's iconic red coat in taffeta, just like the original.

Has the de Young Museum’s sumptuous Balenciaga and Spain exhibition which runs through July 4, 2011 left you hungering for more detailed information about how Cristóbal Balenciaga actually crafted his exquisite dresses and coats?  For a fabulous indulgence in the core of Balenciaga’s talents, Sandra Ericson, the delightful and very knowledgeable founder of St. Helena’s Center for Pattern Design  has organized four special events, taking place this weekend (May 20-22, 2011) at California College of the Arts that will illuminate the way Balenciaga designed, cut and worked with fabric.  Ericson has 31 years of teaching experience in pattern design and is a respected authority on 1930’s French designer Madeleine Vionnet who pioneered draping on the bias.  If you heard the exhibition’s curator Hamish Bowles interviewed by Michael Krasny on KQED’s forum, on March 22, 2011, (click here) you’ll recall there wasn’t much discussion of the actual techniques Balenciaga used. Ericson has organized the activities so that they build from an informative private walk-through and lecture on Friday to hands-on cutting and draping courses on the weekend.  

Private tour: Balenciaga and Spain at the De Young Museum, May 20, 10 – 11 AM.   A private tour of Balenciaga and Spain at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, guided by a knowledgeable docent and Sandra Ericson. This tour will emphasize the fabrics, cut and construction of the pieces shown.  Afterward, the group will meet for a no-host lunch and a Q & A with Sandra on the patio of the Museum Cafe.

Lecture:  Balenciaga’s Cut and Construction, May 20, 7 – 9 PM.  ($45) Sandra Ericson gives a visual presentation and exploration of how Balenciaga actually worked.  The focus will be on identifying the fabrics (with samples to touch), the cutting and construction techniques for his sculptural masterpieces and the design theory behind the genius of Cristobal Balenciaga. 

Balenciaga's iconic paletot and scarf in putty-colored broadcloth from his Winter 1950 collection. Photographed by Irving Penn for American Vogue. Paletot: A loose outer jacket, cloak, coat

Draping Class:  The Red Coat, May 21, 2011, 9 AM – 5 PM ($159 or $259 for both)  This class will focus upon the Red Coat and will be draped half-scale in taffeta as the original was in full scale.  Half-scale dress forms (with arms) are supplied as is all student fabric.  Class is from 9 AM to 5 PM with breaks and lunch on your own.  You will need to bring basic sewing supplies for this class. 

Details will be provided to all attendees.  Limited to a total of 15 students. (8 students for a single day and 7 students taking both days.)   Experience level: beginning to intermediate.  The designs are not highly fitted nor do they have multiple pieces or unusual fabric effects; they are, however, dramatic and require some fabric familiarity and some sewing experience to understand assembly.  Sandra tries to bring each student along based upon the student’s own starting point, often grouping people together at similar levels for extra instruction during the class.

Draping Class:  The Pleated Paletot May 22, 2011, 9 AM – 5 PM ($159 or $259 for both) This event will focus upon the Paletot jacket, said to be created for Marlene Dietrich, and will be draped half-scale in crepe just as the original was in full scale. Half-scale dress forms (with arms) are supplied as is all student fabric.  Class is from 9 AM to 5 PM with breaks and lunch on your own.  You will need to bring basic sewing supplies for this class. 

Register and buy tickets here (Each event is ticketed separately; the lecture and the classes will be held at California College of the Arts, , 111 8th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107)       

Details CFPD:  for further information, contact Sandra Ericson, Director, Center for Pattern Design, St. Helena, California 94574, 707-967-0852.

Details: Balenciaga and Spain:  Balenciaga and Spain ends July 4, 2011.  The de Young Museum is located at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA.   Admission to Balenciaga and Spain is $25 adults and free for members and children 5 and under.  There is a $5 discount for purchasing tickets in advance. 

ARThound’s other coverage of Balenciaga:

 Sandra Ericson, creator, Center for Pattern Design, talks about Balenciaga, the de Young exhibition and her “Balenciaga in Depth” seminar this weekend (May 21, 2011)

 Smart marketing: the de Young Museum’s foray into pay-per-view–hook ‘em by streaming a sold-out Balenciaga Symposium and later they will visit (March 23, 2011)

 Bouquets to Art 2011 launches Monday with a Spanish theme to celebrate Balenciaga–at San Francisco’s de Young Museum through March 19, 2011  (March 13, 2011)

May 17, 2011 Posted by | de Young Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smart marketing: the de Young Museum’s foray into pay-per-view–hook ‘em by streaming a sold-out Balenciaga Symposium and later they will visit

Cristóbal Balenciaga, Cocktail hat of ivory silk satin, 1953. Originally published in Vogue, October 15, 1953. Photo: John Rawlings.

This Saturday, for the first time ever, viewers will be able to take in a long sold-out Balenciaga symposium at San Francisco’s de Young Museum without leaving their homes.  The museum is streaming the Balenciaga and Spain Symposium live at 1 p.m. and for $10 viewers can watch the simulcast on Fora.TV and access it as many times as they want until July 4, when the exhibition closes.  The move to pay-per-view makes good business sense for the museum, currently the 5th most highly attended museum in the country and known for its progressive and immensely popular shows.  

“Pay per view is the greatest way to make our collections and special exhibitions available and accessible to as many people as possible and that’s what we’re all about—education and illumination,” said John Buchanan, director FAMSF.  “We have these scholars and resources here and sharing the word in this streaming fashion geometrically multiples our audience and it will get people to come in and see the real thing.  Streaming is a logical and profitable step.”  For those of us who live in the extended Bay Area, this appetite whetter may just the enticement we need to cross the bridge for culture.  For those more distant, it puts the show and the museum high on to-do lists.  Win-win.

Museums are the newest entrants to the streaming and HD-live craze that has paid off big for the Metropolitan Opera which began simulcasting six of its operas in 2007 in select movie theatres across the country and hit pay dirt.  As Peter Gelb, the company’s managing director, stated in the New York Times (May 17, 2007) the number of people who attended Met Live performances during the first season of the program, 324,000 at $18 a piece, led him to believe that the audience for the second year of the program would reach 800,000 and actually match the audience attending the two hundred plus performances in the actual Met auditorium.  He called the simulcasts “a powerful marketing tool.”   In 2010, Gelb reported that, for 2010, 2.4 million people in 1,500 theatres in 46 countries bought tickets to the series for a gross of $47 million.  Half of that went to expenses, but still left a hefty and unheard of profit.  Gelb also reported that the series has had an enormous impact on donations, adding almost 7,000 donors to the list of Met contributors in recent seasons.  

“Embracing new technology is something we’re very proud,” said Buchanan.  “When images from museum first went online, people in the museum world were saying that people would stop coming to museums.  In fact, that proved very false and it lured people in to the museums.  This is going to have the same impact.”     

Hamish Bowles, European editor at large, Vogue, and guest curator of Balenciaga and Spain is participating in the de Young's first live streaming of a symposium this Saturday. Photo by Arthur Elgort.

For museum-goers and even those unfamiliar with the museum world, a simulcast featuring the trend-setting and enormously popular Vogue editor Hamish Bowles talking about Balenciaga might just take off big.  Bowles guest curated  Balenciaga and Spain and has already made a number of media appearances since he arrived in the Bay Area last week.  The museum’s auditorium can seat an audience of 270 and the event sold out within an hour reported the FAMSF’s communications department.  The option immediately makes the event accessible to an unlimited audience who can access the event at their leisure.   The de Young Museum is already one of the highest profile museums in the country.  Since it’s re-do six years ago, the latest statistics, current to 2010, show that it has attracted over 8 million visitors, and The Art Newspaper has ranked it as the 5th most highly attended museum in the country.  Pay per view could bolster its popularity, especially if the programming has the popular (and non-academic) appeal of fashion. 

Under the helm of FAMSF Director John Buchanan and FAMSF Board Chair De De (Diane) Wilsey, the de Young Museum has expanded its offerings to  a number of tremendously popular shows addressing fashion–Nan Kempner: American Chic (2007), Vivien Westwood: 36 Years in Fashion (2007),  Yves Saint Laurent (2008).  Its sister institution, the Legion of Honor, has done the same and is currently offering Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave through June 5, 2011.  “I firmly believe that if you buy the best that money can buy and you show the best there is to show, people will come,” said De De Wilsey.  “Fashion and art are completely intertwined and it’s been my mission to show people the very best art.  The very best designers are true artists.”

Saturday's live streamed symposium will discuss Spanish influences on Balenciaga such as painter Diego Velazquez. His portrait of the Infanta Maria-Margarita, daughter of Felipe IV, King of Spain inspired Balenciaga's famous Infanta dress. Photo: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY.

Saturday’s symposium will examine the underlying themes in Balenciaga and Spain which kicks off with a gala on Thursday and opens to the public this Saturday and runs through July 4, 2011.  The highly anticipated exhibition focuses on the remarkable oeuvre of Spanish haute couture designer Cristóbal Balenciaga.  His now iconic “balloon” skirt, “baby doll” and “sack” dresses, the 7/8-length “bracelet sleeve,” and the “dropped waist” created a new silhouette for women.  Born in 1895 in a remote fishing village in Spain, Balenciaga learned sewing and tailoring at his mother’s knee.  From this humble start, the persistent young man, opened his own fashion house in Paris in 1937 where he was greeted with immediate success.  In the years following World War II, he became one of the most influential haute couture fashion designers.   Balenciaga was a sculptor with a strong and unique vision who worked with space, the female body and fabric.  Balenciaga and Spain features nearly 120 haute couture garments, hats, and headdresses designed by Balenciaga, some of which have never been seen before.  This exhibition, conceived by American fashion designer Oscar de la Renta for a show last fall at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute in New York, will be nearly twice as large at the de Young  and it includes 17 pieces from the private collection of Hamish Bowles.   The exhibition explores Balenciaga’s expansive creativity and is the first to focus on the impact of Spain’s art, bullfighting, dance, regional costume, and the pageantry of the royal court and religious ceremonies.  Pieces were selected from Balenciaga’s archives in France, private collections, the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as from the FAMSF’s immense collection of over 12,000 textiles.

Symposium Speakers: 

Hamish Bowles, “Balenciaga and Spain: Cristóbal Balenciaga and the Power of the Spanish Identity”  Hamish Bowles, fashion journalist, is the European editor at large for the American edition of Vogue. A graduate of the Saint Martin’s School of Art and Design, Bowles worked as a fashion editor and style director for Harpers and Queen from 1984 until 1992 and then joined Vogue in 1992.

Balenciaga’s sketch for his "Infanta" evening dress clearly shows the influence of Diego Velazquez’s Portrait of the Infanta Maria-Margarita (circa 1665); from Vogue Magazine (September 15, 1939). Carl Erickson/Conde Nast Archive; © Conde Nast.

Bowles is author and co-author of several books including Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People; Philip Treacy: “When I Met Isabella”; and Carolina Herrera: Portrait of a Fashion Icon.  He also served as curator for the landmark exhibition Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years and as guest curator for Balenciaga and Spain.

Miren Arzalluz, “Cristóbal Balenciaga. The Making of the Master (1895–1936)”
Miren Arzalluz studied History at the University of Deusto (Spain) and Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics before specializing in the history of dress and fashion at the Courtauld Institute of Art. After working in various British museums, such as the V&A and Kensington Palace, she became curator at the Balenciaga Foundation in 2007. Her research covers the history of fashionable dress on the 20th century with particular emphasis on the life and work of Balenciaga. She has recently published the book Cristóbal Balenciaga. La Forja del Maestro (1895–1936), which focuses on the life and professional development of Balenciaga before establishing his haute couture house in Paris, and she is currently working on the permanent exhibition and catalogue of the new Balenciaga Museum project in Getaria, the couturier´s hometown.

Lourdes Font, “Austere Splendor: Balenciaga’s Legacy of Spanish Court Costume”
This talk is a survey of costume at the Spanish court from the late 15th c. to the late 18th c. as seen in royal and aristocratic portraits,  making connections with surviving garments and accessories and tracing the influence of this legacy on Balenciaga’s designs.
Lourdes Font is associate professor in the department of History of Art and in the M.A. program for Fashion and Textile Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Among her recent publications are Fashion and Visual Art.  Font is the co-editor of and contributor to the Grove Dictionary of Art Online. She has also contributed articles and essays to West 86: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture, to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum’s exhibition catalogue Fashion in Colors, and to Fashion Theory.

Balenciaga's "Infanta" evening dress; 1939. Photograph by George Hoyningen-Huene. © R.J. Horst. Courtesy Staley/Wise Gallery, NYC.

Pamela Golbin, “Balenciaga’s Designs and Development (1937–1968)”
Pamela Goblin, chief curator of the Musée de la Mode et du Textile at the Louvre in Paris, is an internationally renowned figure in the fashion industry with extensive historical knowledge of cultural and design issues. She is a leading expert in contemporary fashion and has organized landmark exhibitions worldwide. Ms. Golbin has organized more than fifteen exhibitions, including major retrospectives on iconic fashions legends such as Balenciaga and Valentino. Her latest exhibition was an award-winning retrospective of Madeleine Vionnet.

To sign up for the Balenciaga and Spain symposium, click here and you will be directed to the’s webpage.  The pay-per-view symposium streams live this saturday at 1 PM and is available for unlimited viewing until the exhibition closes.

Details: The de Young Museum is located at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA.  Admission to Balenciaga and Spain is $25 adults and free for members and children 5 and under.  There is a $5 discount for purchasing tickets in advance.  Ticket includes admission to the special exhibition Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico through May 8, 2011. 

For a complete listing of the numerous special events associated with the exhibition visit its webpage Balenciaga and Spain.

March 23, 2011 Posted by | Art, de Young Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bouquets to Art 2011 launches Monday with a Spanish theme to celebrate Balenciaga–at San Francisco’s de Young Museum through March 19, 2011


For the next five days starting Monday, March 14, Bouquets to Art will transform the De Young Museum into a fragrant extravaganza of floral arrangements inspired by art.  Now in its 27th year, Bouquets to Art is the museum’s biggest fundraiser and one of the country’s leading floral events.  Floral designers from all over the world, but mainly from the greater Bay Area, organize their loveliest and most exotic blooms into creative arrangements that respond to works in the museum’s permanent collection.   It all launches this Monday evening with a festive opening night preview party in Wilsey Court.  In addition to a sneak preview of 150 intoxicatingly fresh floral arrangements, there will be a lavish Spanish buffet by McCall Associates, hosted bars, and live music provided by a Spanish guitar trio.

Organized by the San Francisco Auxiliary of the Fine Arts Museums, this year’s show celebrates the highly anticipated Balenciaga and Spain exhibition that opens March 26 and runs through July 4, 2011.  Balenciaga and Spain at the de Young, curated by Hamish Bowles, European editor at large for Vogue, is the first exhibition to examine the impact of Spain’s culture, history and art on one of its greatest artists, couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga.  The exhibition will showcase approximately 120 ensembles, many of them generously lent from the Balenciaga Archives as the result of an unprecedented collaboration.  The accessories and photographs together will provide a complete picture of Balenciaga’s creativity and sources of inspiration.

Local participants in this year’s Bouquets to Art include Catherine Scott of Catherine Scott Flowers (Sonoma), Josette Brose-Eichar of Lavender (Sonoma),  Pat Friday Flowers (St. Helena) and Natasha Jacobsen, Flowers by Natasha (Gualala).The show is complimented by a series of daily lectures by noted Bay Area, national and international floral designers and special luncheons and high teas. 

“This is a chance to be whimsical and sculptural with floral designs,” said Pat Friday, owner of Pat Friday Flowers, St. Helena, who has been a participant in Bouquets to Art for 18 years.  “It’s a real celebration of other designers in Northern, CA too and a chance to see some exceptional work.”  Along with Rachael Riser, senior floral designer, Friday is creating a floral moonscape  to correspond to two black and white photographs of the moon—one is from the late 1800’s and was taken by telescope and the other is a NASA photograph taken from the surface of the moon.  Their moonscape incorporates a variety of cacti, succulents, hyacinths, chrysanthemums, brunia, agonis, exculayptus pods, ranunculus, dusty miller, silver tree, baby’s breath, and craspedia.  The work is in Gallery 12.

“We got excited about what could be on the surface of the moon in more whimsical and fun way and looked for things that weren’t captured in those photos,” said Rachael Riser.  “There’s a dark side and a light side and a few little surprises.” 

Bouquets to Art 2011 Schedule of Events:

Monday, March 14
6:30–9:30 pm: Opening Night Preview Party, featuring floral exhibits, lavish buffet by
McCall Associates, hosted bars and live music by a Spanish guitar trio.

Tuesday, March 15
9:30 am–5:15 pm: Floral exhibits, luncheons and afternoon teas
10 am: Lecture by J. Keith White, Houston-based floral designer
1:30 pm: Lecture by Reverend William McMillan, Belfast-based floral designer

Wednesday, March 16
9:30 am–5:15 pm: Floral exhibits, luncheons and afternoon teas
10 am: Lecture by Shane Connolly, London-based floral designer
1:30 pm: Flora Grubb and Susie Nadler, San Francisco floral designers
6–8 pm: The Fine Arts Museums members-only evening

Thursday, March 17
9:30 am–5:15 pm: Floral exhibits, luncheons and afternoon teas
10 am: Lecture by Soho Sakai, East Bay floral designer
1:30 pm: Lecture by Kate Berry, New York City-based floral designer

Friday, March 18
9:30 am–8:45 pm: Floral exhibits

Saturday, March 19
9:30 am–5:15 pm: Floral exhibits, benefit drawing

Bouquets to Art 2011 Ticketing
General admission allows access to all floral exhibits and special exhibition galleries. Advance general admission tickets may be purchased up to 24 hours prior to your visit either online or in person at the museum box office.  Day-of-visit general admission ticket purchases include an additional $5 surcharge.  Adult tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door, senior 65+ tickets are $17 in advance and $22 at the door, youth 6–17 tickets are $16 in advance and $21 at the door and children 5 and under are free.  FAMSF members receive free admission and do not need to make advance reservations for general admission.  Member tickets may be picked up at the membership desk on the day of the visit.  Advance tickets are required for the opening night preview party, luncheons, lectures and afternoon teas. For more information and to order tickets, go to

 Bouquets to Art 2011 Hours

Tuesday through Saturday, March 15-19, 2011, from 9:30 AM to 5:15 PM

Extended hours Friday, March 18, 2011, until 8:45 PM

Museum members-only night on Wednesday, March 16, from 6 to 8 PM

 Visiting the de Young:
Address: Golden Gate Park 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive San Francisco, CA 94118
Parking: street parking is free for 3 hours within the park and there is a paid parking garage that is adjoined to the deYoung Museum.

March 13, 2011 Posted by | Art, de Young Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment